Retail Guide: Athletic Shopping List

WEST, New York
Lester Wasserman, owner/buyer
Store count: 1 (1,000 sq. ft.); est. 2007

Hunting for: “We’re always on the hunt for premium styles with heritage behind them.”

Buying strategy: “We’re going to need to buy at least the same amount. Additionally, vendors will probably stock less this year compared with last year, [so we can’t rely on reorders].”

Shoes you can’t keep in stock: “Jordan Brand has been on a roll as of late, with the last few releases [the Air Jordan 11 and Air Jordan 3] liquidating almost instantly. Both of these are shoes that Jordan reproduces very infrequently, so they’re very popular.”

Best price point: $160

Hottest new brands: “While it’s far from a new brand, we have expanded our New Balance assortment and have seen tremendous results.”

Fall ’12 trend you’re betting on: “While the weather in the Northeast was very mild, heavier-looking boots from Sorel performed extremely well, so we will look to add to this category of footwear.”

Fall ’12 trend you’re passing on: “Dressier athletic shoes with no heritage or history behind them.”

Mood at retail: “People are hungry for ‘A’ styles. There is very little room for ‘B’ and ‘C’ shoes. While customers are buying less frequently, they don’t mind paying for a hot product.”

What you’re doing to get people to buy: “We have a good online presence and use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in addition to our own blog, but the best way to get people to purchase is to have the right product at the right time.”

KARMALOOP.COM, Boston
Holland Smith,  director of merchandising
Store count: 1 (online); est. 2000

Shoes you can’t keep in stock: “We’re seeing the technical side of athletic come back. Adidas, Reebok and Puma are out with running shoe/hiker combinations that are very unique.”

Best price point: $100 to $120

Hottest new brands: “AH by Android Homme is a great line of fashion footwear. Their sneaker game is crazy right now. Their first delivery ships soon, but we have a lot of confidence in them.”

Fall ’12 trend you’re betting on: “Athletic hybrids and runners are the new trend we’re betting on, but we still will do a ton of our business in simple, classic Vans.”

Fall ’12 trend you’re passing on: “I don’t know. People are really stepping up their game right now. There are a lot of cool ideas out there, and since we carry so many brands — more than 500 — we have the luxury to try just about all of them.”

Mood at retail: “We feel that the strong growth we’ve had the last few years will continue this spring because our customers are buying.”

What you’re doing to get people to buy: “We’re going to be doing even more video around our footwear this year. We can show our kids what they can’t see in still pictures on the site.”

NEO 39, Pasadena, Calif.
Mickey Nassrin, lead buyer
Store count: 1 (2,200 sq. ft.); est. 2000


Hunting for: “I’m hunting for more boots, namely Dr. Martens, Red Wing, Swear and Grenson. Lastly, we are looking to bring in more product from one of the newest brands we adopted at Neo, Pointer.”

Buying strategy: “We’re buying more to expand our offering as well as in anticipation of the recession improving. We’re also in the process of building our online store.”

Shoes you can’t keep in stock: “Toms’ Classic Slip-On is a shoe that sells out as fast as it arrives. The Nike Free Run 3.0 is a lightweight performance runner that relies on the principles of barefoot running. As soon as we receive it we instantly begin to sell out.”

Best price point: “$65 is the best price point, as it seems to hit the everyman price with sneakers.”

Hottest new brands: “It’s still Toms for us. We also carried Asics a long time ago, stopped, and then brought it back last summer. The Onitsuka brand of Asics just flies out of our store now and we’re reordering all the time.”

Fall ’12 trend you’re betting on: “I’ve had a suspicion that Dr. Martens will come back in a big way. Every 20 years, you see fashion recycle itself. There’s been recent interest in the brand again from early adopters, which lets me think we’ll notice a trend in the fall.”

Fall ’12 trend you’re passing on: “We’ll give anyone a try if we think it’s a good look for the store because we have such a wide range of people coming in.”

Mood at retail: “The mood at retail is fantastic. We had one of our best holiday seasons in 2011. This indicates a confidence in consumer shopping, as well as an upward swing in the economy.”

What you’re doing to get people to buy: “We’ve expanded our reach through social media on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Through daily interaction on all three sites, we’re making an effort to connect with our customer even outside of store hours.”

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